Trends are cyclical—wait a few decades, and those bell-bottom jeans or Hammer pants in the back of the closet become hip and retro instead of a fashion faux pas. Triathlon, too, follows this pattern: for evidence, look no further than the recent resurgence of beam bikes or 70.3 world champion Tim Reed’s dedicated campaign to bring back the mustaches and skimpy race briefs of triathlon’s forefathers.
It makes sense, then, that the latest bikes from Trek have a retro twist. Neon colors, and lots of them, adorn the frames of many a pro this year, including Holly Lawrence, Linsey Corbin and Reed (no, he hasn’t chosen to color-coordinate his Budgy Smuggler briefs). The Wisconsin-based bike company is bringing back the ’90s with safety in mind.
As part of their “Always Be Seen” campaign to promote safety for cyclists, Trek’s design team sought to develop bright colors best spotted by motorists. What they discovered, however, was that their best option already existed: their Radioactive palette, which comes in fluorescent shades of yellow, orange, green and pink, had been lying dormant for a few years, waiting for the trend to come back.
“It turned out we have had these colors in our offering for quite some time,” says Michael Mayer, Road and Triathlon Brand Manager at Trek. “It started as a trend color—I think it was 1991. It was a good year for hi-vis.”
It’s hard to imagine a neon color going unnoticed for almost three decades, but as neon’s popularity fizzled out, consumer demand for the Radioactive palette followed suit. Only recently has it seen a resurgence—not for trend, but for safety. Modern cyclists want to make it impossible for motorists to miss them; they light up their bikes like a Christmas tree and eschew dark colors for the most blinding contrast possible. Neon gets the job done.
“Bike safety is very important to our riders,” says Mayer. “[The Radioactive colors] are highly visible. They’re loud. It addresses the need for visibility and safety.”
Mayer says the trick to bringing neon back has been finding the right balance of color and style—unlike the ’90s, a bike fully swathed in Radioactive Yellow is not as popular as one with a bit more design flair. The 2017 version utilizes the “Hilo Pro” paint scheme: Radioactive Yellow is the primary color, with Viper Red and Trek Black accents. This design is available on most road, mountain and triathlon bikes from Trek, including their popular Speed Concept triathlon model.
For added visibility, Mayer suggests installing daytime running lights as well as highlighting as much of the body as possible with fluorescent and reflective clothing. The Radioactive color palette is also utilized on select Trek clothing and helmets. Or, if you’ve been in this sport for a while, you probably have some ’90s neon gear tucked away in the closet somewhere.